Epidemic Thunderstorm Asthma

The 2018 Australian and New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference is almost here again, this year the Conference will be held over the 21-22 May at The Star Gold Coast.

Ms Alison McMillan, Deputy Director Strategy and Policy, Emergency Management Branch, Department of Health and Human Services joins us to discuss Epidemic Thunderstorm Asthma’.

On 21 and 22 November 2016, Victoria witnessed an unprecedented epidemic thunderstorm asthma emergency event in size acuity and impact. Not a scenario that was ever exercised or contemplated.

The event resulted in a 73% increase in calls to the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority , 814 ambulance cases in the six hours from 6 pm on 21 November 2016, a 58% increase in people presented to public hospital emergency departments in Melbourne and Geelong on 21 and 22 November 2016 (based on the three-year average). 313 calls to NURSE-ON-CALL from people with breathing and respiratory and allergy problems (compared to an average of 63 calls for the previous month).
Tragically, ten deaths are possibly linked to this event. The circumstances of these details are being investigated by the State Coroner.

A substantial amount of work has been completed, much of which goes towards addressing the Inspector-General for Emergency Management’s recommendations following a review of the event, including:

• release of an epidemic thunderstorm asthma campaign and education programs which were rolled out across Victoria for the community and health professionals from September through November 2017;
• development of a new epidemic thunderstorm asthma forecasting system on 1 October 2017 and updated warning protocols during the 2017 grass pollen season;
• implementation of a Real-time Health Emergency Monitoring System to alert the department of demands on public hospital emergency departments on the system; and
• introduction of a new State Health Emergency Response Plan in October 2017 to improve coordination and communications before and during a health emergency.

The presentation will concentrate on the lessons learnt more than a year down the track from the event in November 2016.

Alison McMillan has more than 30 years’ experience as a nurse, and as an executive in both the healthcare sector and public service. In her role as the Deputy Director Strategy and Policy, Emergency Management Branch of the Department of Health and Human Services, Alison contributes towards a vision of safer and more resilient communities, through minimising the impact of emergencies on the health and well-being of communities and individuals, especially the most disadvantaged and vulnerable.

For more information on the 2018 Australian and New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference and to secure your spot, visit the conference website.